NEW Zealand League 7's selectors, Graeme Norton, Duane Mann and John Ackland will really have their work cut out for them following day one of the Scottwood National 7's Tournament held at North Harbour Stadium today. The talent and skills on display would make the task difficult for the most experienced selectors, something these guys are. Tomorrow afternoon they will name the NZ Residents squad to play in the St Mary's Invitation 7's in Sydney on February 12 & 13.
The abating of the heat and humidity that has been Auckland recently, meant that the teams were competing in almost perfect playing conditions. Unfortunately the morning rain obviously scared a lot of fans away, as day one of the tournament was fairly poorly attended. If I suggest there was 1100 folks there at it's peak, I would probably be being very generous. The hardy punters who attended, however, were treated to a fete of League 7's. Just how good is it to witness teams from Hawkes Bay, Otago, Taranaki, Gisbourne/Tairawhiti, the West Coast and provincial Canterbury competing on a league field in Auckland. How good is it....it's damn good. It's damn good and even better that every team is competitive and given the right nuturing you would have to think that a lot of these teams, in a fairly short time frame, could be competing at a national level in the 13 man game.
With 20 teams competing in five pools you would reasonably expect that there may be a little biffo along the way. No, every game played was played in excellent spirit and I can count the pentalties awarded for foul play on one hand. A pretty good result for thirty games. The day produced no major upsets, although the provincial Canterbury side (as opposed to the Canterbury Bulls) came within a whisker of upsetting the mighty Mt Albert Lions. The Cantabs lead the entire game with Mt Albert grabbing the lead and the win right on the hooter. In the the first half of the Gisbourne/Tairawhiti versus Hibiscus Coast Raiders, the team from Poverty Bay got out to a very lead. Inuargural Scottwood Cup winners, Hibiscus Coast Raiders, had to pull everything out of their arsenal to get the game back on track and run out winners. Just on the Raiders it was interesting to note the return of centre, Shaun Ata, after a stint with the Penrith Panthers club.
So, who were the standouts. Time and space does not permit because there were more than a few. Some players though, do deserve special mention. Daniel Floyd from the Hibiscus Coast Raiders. Josh Davis and Wesley Henry from Wellington.
Wesley Henry had an absolutely awesome day. It takes a bit to impress this old writer but I was impressed - this bloke is so strong. For the Otago side, Robbie Rameka was head and shoulders. Gisbourne/Tairawhiti produced an amazing number 7 by the name of Storm Kiddie. This young bloke is slightly built but his enthusiasm and skills are a delight to watch. For the Waicoa Bay team, Heyden Kerena was the absolute goods. Gee, is this guy a future Kiwi half or not. Canterbury Bulls regular second rower, Chris Newton, is a guy who reminds me so much of Nathan Hindmarsh - not in size, but the body shape is all wrong, the loping gait seems more suited to a trotter, the centre of gravity is all up the creek but can this guy play. He's an absolute try scoring machine. Tangi Ropati for the Marist Richmond franchise was extremely classy and I'll be very surprised if he doesn't pay a visit to St Mary's shortly. There are so many more and I wouldn't be a selector for quids.
Can't wait for tomorrow. More fantastic 7's footy. Finals time in Bowl, Plate and Cup......and then the squad announcement.
ANOTHER minnow applies to affiliate with PNGRFL
BRITISH champions Leeds Rhinos have survived a spirited comeback from NRL premiers the Canterbury Bulldogs to win the World Club Challenge by 39-32 today.
SONNY Bill Williams has declared he would like to remain at Canterbury but would not rule out moving to a rival NRL club when his contract with the Bulldogs is up at the end of this season.
AFTER missing the NRL top 8 for the past two seasons, Cronulla skipper Brett Kimmorley says it's time for the club to deliver the goods.
AFTER 14 rounds of football, the Leagueunlimited.com awards still have Sharks? half back Brett Kimmorley at the top of the leader board on 17 points. Nathan Hindmarsh (16 points) and Matt Orford (15 points) are not far behind.
The shakers and movers this week include Dragons half back Mathew Head who scored three points on Friday night, moving up to 11 points and within sight of the front runners. Wests Tigers? fullback Brett Hodgson also scored well and moves up to 10 points.
IT was always going to be a tough ask. Without Noddy or Stevo, or Peach or Vagana, the Sharks were always going to struggle for leadership against the Raiders.
THE tri-nations rugby league series will kick off in New Zealand between the Kiwis and the Kangaroos on October 16.
KNIGHTLY News ? 14/5/2004
THIS weekend's match details:
NSWRL VB Premier League
Newtown plays South Sydney
Saturday, 15 May
Express Advocate Stadium, Gosford
This match is the main curtain-raiser to the South Sydney-North Queensland NRL match.
NSWRL Jim Beam Cup
Newtown plays Woy Woy
Saturday, 15 May
Woy Woy Oval
In other news:
THE second half of the split round, Round 4, of New Zealand's Bartercard Cup competition kicks off on Saturday afternoon while the six teams from last week sit on the sidelines. Already in Round 4 we've seen the leaders of the competition, Marist Richmond Brothers lose to the North Harbour Tigers, last year's champions Canterbury Bulls lose narrowly to Otahuhu Ellerslie, and Mt Alberts Lions fight their way back into form downing the previously undefeated Counties Manakau Jets side.
AFTER winning eight consecutive English Challenge Cups between 1988-95, Wigan is rarely the Cup final underdog and even more rarely the choice of neutral rugby league fans.
MELBOURNE Storm forward Kirk Reynoldson always looks forward to playing Parramatta, as each encounter with his former club reminds the bearded prop of how close he came to giving away rugby league for good.
SUNDAY'S clash between the Tigers and the Raiders will be a close affair if the ladder is anything to go by.
With only a win seperating them and the Raiders with a -39 differential compared with the tigers -38 it should be a tight game.
The Tigers will welcome back boom youngster Benji Marshall who should add much needed spark to the tigers attack.
On paper with the return of Marshall the Tigers are fielding possibly their strongest line up to date only the return of Pat Richards from injury could give them a stronger one.
Todd Payten also returns for the Tigers against his old club. Payten as a school boy was covered in accolades and seen by most pundits as the best front row prospect running around.. Two clubs and various injuries later Todd has yet to reach his school boy potential and will be chomping at the bit to put in a big showing.
The Raider's pack is looking fairly light on with key injuries and suspensions.
The average margin between these two clubs is just 6.5 points so expect a tight one with the tigers getting the money this time round..
THE Sydney Roosters and player manager George Mimis will today deny they have held discussions over the possibility of star Brisbane five-eighth Darren Lockyer joining the club.